Me: "How many children do each of you want to have?"
Partner 1: "Two."
Partner 2: "Wait -- what? I thought we had agreed we were going to have 4 since we both grew up with 3 siblings and really loved it."
Partner 1: "Umm... about that... that's what you said YOU wanted. I didn't necessarily agree..."
And so it begins. The premarital counseling process is a pivotal point for many, many couples out there. The expectations that stem from our own histories bring a slew of never discussed (or settled upon) issues to the table. Unless a couple is strongly encouraged to explore certain aspects of their relationship, many will never even discuss the number of children then want to have (or at what age) until years after they get married (or right when it happens).
While one couple may have a discrepancy in the number of children they intend to have, other couples struggle with the ability to voice their needs in the relationship, while still others sometimes don't even know if their betrothed was previously engaged or married.
I wonder how that ends up working for them?
Engaged couples are often still caught up in the infatuation phase of their relationship. Understandably so. They should be! This is why I have spoken with many couples who just did not feel interested in, or the need to, engage in a counseling process pre-wedding.
But... what those couples don't realize is that by prioritizing time and space to explore deeper questions, expectations, and issues BEFORE marriage, they are setting the stage for all future conflict-handling in their lives. It starts at the very beginning. And this influences more than just each of you and your relationship as a couple.
This affects your future children.
How, you ask? Well, I think this quote by W.E.B. DuBois sums it all up:
"Children learn more from what you are than what you teach."
Your ability as a couple to navigate through the terrain of conflict and the agony of frustrating situations and those moments when you simply want to scream and throw the towel in will make all the difference in how your children learn to argue, repair, and attach to you and, later in life, to their own mate.
One of the most interesting things I have learned about millennials (other than being one myself) is that they are a generation that values investing in and supporting products and services that contribute to a greater purpose. Millennials want to know they are supporting a cause that in some way contributes to the well-being of humanity. They embrace the idea of mindfulness, acceptance, and vulnerability more than generations past.
Why is it, then, that many young couples are still hesitant to engage in the premarital process? It is, after all, contributing to the longevity of your marriage, and to the mental and emotional health of your future children. It is, in my eyes, THE most important cause you could invest in.
Thinking back on your own childhood and experience with your parents, what sticks out to you? How did your parents/caretakers do at handling disagreements, financial problems, issues with the rowdy kids, respecting each other, or discipline?
How did the way they worked through those things influence or affect you?
We all bring our own "stuff" into our marriages. No one is immune from having baggage. The best thing you can do for your future children (or current children!) is to work on building the strongest and most resilient marriage possible. Stronger marriage = healthier children. And yes, the research will back this up.
So, what are you waiting for? There's no time like the present to give your marriage the gift of a strong foundation toward success and wellness. Your children will thank you for it one day.
I specialize in helping millennial couples prepare for marriage. Get your FREE copy of my latest relationship e-book: 10 Topics to Discuss Before You Tie the Knot!